Ideas range from Bag Balm to Zippos

Ideas range from Bag Balm to Zippos by Bob Karolevitz I�ve had two items in my idea file which I can�t stretch into column length.

Maybe if I combine them � even though the subjects aren�t remotely related � I can squeeze out my weekly word count.

The first is Bag Balm.

You thought the stuff that comes in the greenish square box was strictly for bovine udders. But you�re wrong!

The miraculous ointment � which is still sold in pharmacies, hardware stores and tack shops � can be used on chapped hands, bedsores, ouches from bicycles seats, saddle irritations, sunburn, after radiation treatments and all sorts of dry skin problems.

The secret formula � which includes a petroleum base, an antiseptic and lanolin in unknown amounts � is manufactured in Vermont, but it finds its way to South Dakota, too. Despite its gosh-awful name, Bag Balm has thrived for more than 100 years, which shows you how important the labeling is.

So even if you don�t have a cow or two, there are still lots of uses for the soothing unguent for you to moisturize yourself with, like softening up crusty elbows or hardened heels.

The second subject is the Zippo lighter.

Although cigarette smoking is way down in the U.S., this veteran of World War II is still going strong. The company in Bradford, PA, makes something like 60,000 a day. A lot of them go overseas where they�re still used for their original purpose, but many of them go into the hands of collectors.

Little did George G. Blaisdell, a Pennsylvania oil entrepreneur, know what he was getting into when he bought the American rights to a clunky-looking Austrian lighter in 1932. He called it the Zippo, stealing the idea from the zipper which was then growing popular.

Having been an apprentice machinist as a youngster, he changed the flint wheel and made other modifications so that the Zippo would light every time. In 1933 production of the chrome-plated gadget began in the Bradford plant.

It survived the Depression, and then the war came along. All of a sudden the Zippo became more important to GIs than gas masks. From 1942 to the collapse of Germany and Japan, all the lighters were shipped to Army post exchanges and Navy stores. When a sergeant yelled: �Smoke �em if you�ve got �em,� the Zippos came out like dandelions in the spring.

Now there�s a lighter museum in Guthrie, OK, a Pocket Lighter Preservation Guild with lots of members and a National Zippo Day in Bradford where apparently you won�t find a single match.

They say a 1933 Zippo � of which only about 40 are known to exist � will bring up to $10,000 from an avid collector. Those engraved with logos of companies like Studebaker which have gone out of business are highly prized by hobbyists of which there are many.

Unfortunately, I spent more than three years in the Army during World War II and never smoked, so I was one of the few who never owned a Zippo like the other guys. Now I wish I had one in my souvenir collection.

I could use it for lighting birthday candles, starting the charcoal grill and warming my hands when Phyllis sends me out to do the chores in the winter weather.

Of course I wouldn�t find a 1933 model in a garage sale. That would be like winning the lottery, but a World War II Zippo would be just fine.

As for the Bag Balm, there�s a canister of it down in our cow-less barn now. Maybe I should bring it up to our medicine cabinet. I�m a little sore in the sitting part from working at my desk.

� 2002 Robert F. Karolevitz

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